Over the last ten years we have seen an incredible surge in innovative, sustainable fabrics made from a variety of waste products and natural materials. These include natural fibres from coconut shells, pineapple leaves, seaweed and much more. Not only are these fabrics helping to save the planet, but many of them are also high performance, moisture-wicking, odour controlling and faster drying than alternative fabrics, which makes them great for swimwear, sportswear and lingerie. It’s a win-win!
You might have heard of Cocona fabric, which is a sustainable material created using natural fibres from coconut shells, mixed with volcanic sands! These fibres have been recycled into activated carbon which gives the fabric UV sun protection and makes it durable and wrinkle-free. If all that wasn’t enough to convince you that sustainable fabrics are best, it also has moisture-wicking properties that allow the fabric to pull moisture away from the skin, making it easier to evaporate and dry both you and the fabric! Cocona dries 92% faster than regular cotton and has natural odour control, so that you can feel super fresh all day long.
Another unique, eco-friendly fabric is SeaCell®. This material is made from the versatile power-plant seaweed, and is rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. SeaCell® is a smooth fabric with a luxurious silky finish, maybe not what you would expect from seaweed! The natural substances promote cell regeneration, reduce inflammation and contain antioxidants that protect against skin damage, even after several washes. As swimwear covers the most intimate and sensitive areas of the body, the natural features of this fabric have huge benefits. SeaCell® fabric is made in a closed-loop production system with no chemical waste released in the process, and it is also 100% biodegradable. This fabric is sustainable from the beginning of its lifecycle, all the way to the end.
Vita is one of our favourite sustainable swimwear fabrics because it is made from Econyl® yarn, which is a material made from regenerated nylon. The nylon is recycled from ghost fishing nets (which are otherwise left to pollute our oceans), as well as carpet flooring, waste fabric and other plastics. Italian yarn manufacturers Aquafil use innovative technology to transform these waste products into the Econyl® yarn, which is then passed on to textile manufacturers Carvico who use the yarn to produce a high quality, versatile, durable fabric. Using Econyl® yarns reduces the global warming impact of making nylon by up to 80%, that’s huge! Vita is a super soft fabric that is resistant to pilling, has UV protective qualities and is sun cream and oil resistant- what more could you ask for?
It’s not just swimwear that has seen new fabric innovation, lingerie also has its fair share of natural alternatives. Renewable resources such as wood pulp, corn, and milk are being used to create new fabrics for sustainable lingerie brands. You might think that fabric made from milk sounds a little odd, but it has some fantastic qualities! Several companies such as QMilk and Swicofil are producing fabric from milk fibres and the material is 100% natural and from renewable resources, as well as being lightweight and having antibacterial properties- great for intimates! The milk fibres also help to regulate body temperature and are absorbent, and the cherry on top is that once you are finished with it the fabric is compostable!
Eco-alternatives have been welcomed into every aspect of underwear manufacturing, including parts you may not think twice about. Companies such as M-TEC® and Muehlmeier produce a selection of bra components including wires, sliders, rings, hooks and fastenings that are sustainable and eco-friendly. Muehlmeier has researched biological cycles to develop their products, which means their BraCups can be used as fertiliser once the bra has come to the end of its life. Meaning that once you are finished with the cups you can plant them and use them to give nutrition to your garden or potted plants!
Textile manufacturers are creating performance fabrics specifically for activewear, made out of recycled waste from plastic bottles, fishing nets and film. They combine Econyl® with other recycled or bio-based, biodegradable fibres such as Lyocell® to find the perfect blend for performance wear. These fabrics not only utilise waste materials, but they also offer many benefits including UV protection, shape retention and muscle compression, whilst still being lightweight. These qualities make them a perfect sustainable option for activewear fabric.
Jersey Lomellina and Chimchampe are two other fabric manufacturers that offer a wide range of alternative activewear materials, made from recycled yarns. These fabrics are great for high-performance training as they offer a range of benefits such as odour control, moisturising the skin and protection from skin damage. Made from recycled polyester mixes, these performance fabrics are soft, they retain shape and they offer muscle control which is versatile enough for high impact circuit training as well as low impact exercise such as yoga.
As we all become more interested in shopping sustainably, new eco-friendly fabrics will keep being invented. Innovation and technology continue to evolve and with that, so do the possibilities of sustainable fabric alternatives. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what comes next!